Cricket: O'Brien heartbreak as Ireland pipped in thriller
IRELAND came within one ball of repeating their famous tied match at the 2007 World Cup before losing a thrilling One Day International to Zimbabwe by two wickets in Harare yesterday.
Instead of Andrew White bowling the last over, this time Kevin O'Brien took the task on his broad shoulders with Zimbabwe needing six to win, only to see his final delivery -- with the scores level -- smacked over the boundary by Ed Rainsford.
To add controversy to a pulsating finish, the Irish were convinced man- of-the-match Rainsford failed to beat Gary Wilson's throw and should have been run out on the penultimate ball.
In a game that ebbed and flowed wonderfully, Wilson top-scored with 69 in Ireland's total of 200 all out and George Dockrell took 3-27 as Zimbabwe struggled time and again to seize a clear advantage.
"We thought we needed 230 to be competitive but we fought really hard and there's no reason why we can't come back and win the two remaining games and the series," skipper William Porterfield said afterwards.
Put into bat, Ireland were on the back foot as early as the second over when Porterfield was caught and bowled by Rainsford and new batsman Niall O'Brien departed next ball.
A subdued Paul Stirling still managed to lift the one six of the innings but after losing Kevin O'Brien for two, he became Rainsford's third victim and Ireland had lost their top four batsmen inside 10 overs.
In-form pair Wilson and White did a professional repair job by adding 115 in 25.1 overs but when White sent a leading edge into the covers on 47, wickets again began to tumble.
Wilson lofted into the deep, John Mooney ran himself out after making a rapid 22 from as many balls and, as the tail folded, Trent Johnston was 23 not out when he ran out of partners with 15 balls of the Irish quota unbowled.
The home side were favourites at lunch but Ireland could not have had a better start in the field with O'Brien inducing an edge to Stirling at second slip with the first ball of the innings.
A second-wicket stand of 55 between Tatenda Taibu and Brendan Taylor ended when Leinster teenager Dockrell struck twice in his first over, having Taylor caught at mid-wicket and turning one to get Vusi Sibanda lbw first ball.
Chris Ervine gave Taibu valuable support before failing to clear Nigel Jones at deep mid-on off Albert van der Merwe and with Zimbabwe requiring 76 from 14 overs, Johnston returned to have Taibu caught at backward point for 62.
The first three overs of the Zimbabwe powerplay yielded 24 runs but then Dockrell bowled a wicket maiden to breathe life into the Irish, only for Elton Chigumbura's 41 from 32 balls to take it away again.